Heath Ledger: The uncertain aftermath
As his peers and fans make sense of a tragic loss, questions remain about the actor's final projects
Heath Ledger‘s sudden death is still sending shock waves through the entertainment community. At last Sunday’s SAG Awards ceremony — one day after a private L.A. memorial for the actor — attendees poured out their grief. Ryan Gosling and his sister wore handmade black ribbons, while Daniel Day-Lewis dedicated his statuette to Ledger, calling the 28-year-old’s performances in Monster’s Ball and Brokeback Mountain regenerating.
Ledger’s loyal fan base, meanwhile, keeps replenishing the makeshift memorial that has sprung up outside the Broome St. apartment in New York City where the actor was found on Jan. 22; the cause of death is still undetermined. Dozens of brightly colored origami cranes have been sprinkled on piles of flowers, while passersby dropped handwritten messages like ”Yesterday you were a star, today you are a legend for New York. Thank you for being a member of our Brooklyn family.”
While the mourning continues, Hollywood grapples with uncomfortable questions about Ledger’s final two projects. Internet message boards have been heavy with discussion about whether he’d fully completed his work as the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s summer blockbuster The Dark Knight. The movie’s shoot wrapped in November, but most F/X-driven films require significant time in postproduction since actors often return to the studio to re-record their lines. According to a Warner Bros. insider, all of Ledger’s work on the Batman Begins sequel has been completed. What’s not yet clear is whether its marketing strategy — ads prominently featuring Ledger in grotesque Joker makeup with the tagline ”Why So Serious?” are on display in theaters — will eventually change.
Then there’s Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which Ledger was in the middle of filming when he died. Costar Christopher Plummer provided hope that the production will continue, but at the moment, no decisions have been made. Rumors that Johnny Depp would step in for Ledger remain just that since Depp’s spokeswoman says the actor is busy prepping Michael Mann’s Public Enemies and hasn’t had any official talks about Parnassus. Gilliam declined to comment for this article, but according to one source, the director — who was close to Ledger, the star of his 2005 film The Brothers Grimm — was shattered by the news and immediately left Parnassus‘ Vancouver set to fly home to London. Meanwhile, Ledger’s ex, Michelle Williams, has also put off work on Blue Valentine, a romantic drama that she and Gosling were slated to begin shooting this month. According to one source close to the project, it’s now unlikely to go before the cameras until August at the earliest.
— Additional reporting by Lindsay Soll